US, 2010, 90 minutes. Colour.
Andie Mac Dowell, Daniel Sunjata, Annabeth Gish, Barclay Hope, Zak Santiago, Ashley Williams, Diahann Carroll.
Directed by Tom Mc Loughlin.
At Risk is one of two television films written by John Pielmeier (Choices of the Heart, Agnes of God and many television films) based on novels by Patricia Cornwell (who appears in The Front and At Risk as a waitress). The films are star vehicles for Andie Mac Dowell and Daniel Sunjata.
Andie Mac Dowell portrays the Boston Da, Monique Lamont, who is running for governor of Massachusetts. Daniel Sunjata portrays the top detective Win Garano. Diahann Carroll appears in both films as his grandmother. Annabeth Gish is a Tennessee detective in At Risk.
The film focuses on locations in Boston (with a continuous stream of vistas of the city throughout the film) and Knoxville, Tennessee. During the campaign for governorship, an old case comes up from Tennessee and the candidate wants it solved as a boost for her anti-crime campaign. However, the plot is very intricate – with the murderer probably the least expected character.
Both of the central characters are very stubborn. Andie MacDowell? obviously relishes the chance to be a dominating and domineering politician. Daniel Sunjata is a sympathetic detective, especially with the scenes with his grandmother, Diahann Carroll. Annabeth Gish is sympathetic as the Tennessee detective.
The film is standard television material – with a rather unhappy ending. At Risk and The Front were both directed by Tom Mc Loughlin, who began his career in the 1980s with Friday the 13th Part 6 as well as the television series of Friday the 13th.
1. An American television movie mystery? In comparison with others? As stand-alone?
2. The Boston settings, the continual glimpses of the city and the panoramas? The contrast with Knoxville and Tennessee? The story located in a real context? The musical score?
3. The title, Monique Lamont’s slogan? Campaigning about law and order in the United States? Her becoming at risk herself with the attempts on her life?
4. The complexities of the plot? The opening, Win and his grandmother, her mysterious powers, the quotation from Geronimo and everybody being open to the forces of nature? Win and his seeing the murdered couple? The transition to his work in Knoxville, studying at the academy? His collaboration with Delma? On site for investigating the murders? His being called back to Boston? Monique and her dependence on Win? Her proposition about solving the cold case? The Tennessee connection? His concern about his grandmother, setting her up, protecting her, security? The threat against her? His decision to take on the case after refusing Monique? His continual phone calls to Detective Sykes, getting documentation, getting evidence? The investigations of the blood and DNA? Information on the case? His return to Tennessee, working with Delma, the interviews, the realisationof what had happened? The final interview the Kim, the truth – but Win’s suspicions? His affection for Delma? His work with Monique, the phone call, coming to find her under attack, freeing her, killing her assailant? The effect on him, the discussions with Jesse, the concern about his son? Jesse and his encouraging a greater humanity for Win? Weeping? The return to Boston with Delma, the discovery of the truth, coming to save Monique? His confrontation with Jesse, the truth? The gun, his reaction to Delma’s death? Her grave?
5. Monique, her personality, work as a DA, tough, humiliating people in public? Her assailant and the humiliation? Her liaison with Jesse’s son, ridiculing him? His turning against her? Working for the governor? Her wanting to be governor, her speeches and campaigns, her reliance on Win? Wanting the cold case solved? Her return home, the assailant, tied up, the petrol? Win’s arrival, freeing her, shooting the assailant, preventing the fire? Her reaction to the television treatments – not wanting to be a victim, tough yet vulnerable? Her wanting her advertising campaign humanised – put a child in? Her work with Roy? Her being his minder? Her reaction to Win, sending the message threatening his grandmother? The case, her relationship with Jesse? The information about Jesse’s son, getting the file, his death, the file being found? Her continued campaign? Jesse and his threats?
6. Nana, seen in the opening sequences, the flashbacks? Tough, by herself, belief in magic powers, the bay leaves in Win’s shoes? Alone? Wise talk? The encounter with Jesse?
7. Monique and her minders, Roy, at her beck and call, helping her, information?
8. The thirty-five-year-old case? Delma and her finding the documents at the dead policeman’s home? The murder of the policeman? The information about the headless man on the railway line? Her wondering about the connections? Investigations about the murdered woman, at the tennis club, the files, her daughter-in-law and the account? Interviewing the son, the daughter-in-law? The irony of the return – and the truth? The murder of the old lady, Kim and her claiming to have done it? Her covering for her son? The graphic flashbacks? The completion of the story – the drunk and his being put on the railway line, the murder of the mother-in-law – and the reality that it was Jesse, his reaction to his father (and telling the general story to Win), his killing the old woman, his profession of love for his stepson, yet killing him to avoid exposure? The irony of the stepson finding the cold case, knowing that his stepfather was trouble by it, but not realising his father was the murderer? The buying off of the criminal to attack Monique? His going to Nana’s house? His discussions with her – Win and the confrontation, his killing himself after killing Delmar?
9. The local detective, her rivalry with Win, the interrogation of Monique, the discussions about the cases?
10. The background of police work and investigation? The governor of the state and his using underhand means – his invoking God and the irony of of his heart attack?
11. Popular ingredients for a popular murder mystery and investigation?